Hispanic Consulates Getting More Involved with the Community

Consul General of Ecuador in New York Linda Machuca, at the editorial meeting she held with El Diario. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

(…) At an editorial meeting with El Diario, Consul General of Ecuador in New York Linda Machuca explained that, beyond the brick and mortar facility where they issue documents, the consulate has established a connection with the community through free workshops on topics ranging from entrepreneurship, education, health, OSHA courses and legal advice, all of which take place at their Office of Community Services in Queens.

About work safety training – particularly for the construction sector, where many Ecuadoreans have lost their lives – the consul highlighted the progress that has been made in promoting federally-required OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) courses.

The civil servant explained that the consulate has expanded its work by visiting detention centers after the emergency created by the current administration’s immigration policies.

“The most commonly recurring problems come from the people who are detained and who are paying lawyers who often do not solve anything,” she said. “These visits are done in coordination with ICE officials. In cases of deportation, we offer advice to those who have appealed their cases and are seeking to remain in the country. We also intervene when the detainee is soliciting that their deportation be expedited, whether because they have been held for too many months or for family or illness reasons.”

Consul Machuca was specific about the fact that the work of consul employees is limited to legal advice but do not directly offer representation to the detainees. In other cases, they locate lawyers and encourage them to do their work, which the consul said generally yields good results. She added that many detainees are victims of unscrupulous attorneys who abandon their case after they are paid large sums of money.

“It is vitally important for the community to learn about the diversity of services the consulate offers and about the types of actions it undertakes,’ insisted Machuca about the complex vulnerability cases the consulate must address, such as those involving domestic violence.

(…) The Ecuadorean consul has been the head of the Coalition of Latin American Consuls in New York (CLACNY) since December, a role she assumed as “a significant challenge and a great commitment to our people.”

“It is important for us as consuls to share the experiences of our respective communities. I still have not visited all consulates but, together, we will launch a number of initiatives,” said Machuca. In 2007, before holding her current diplomatic position, she was elected in Ecuador as an assembly member to represent immigrants, and helped develop her country’s new Constitution.

This legislative experience has been very useful in her job, and even more so now as president of CLACNY.

“We are structuring a work agenda that we wish to finish soon. Each consulate has different realities and needs, but much of the role they fulfill has to do with their legal base and resources,” she said.

For example, Machuca added, small consulates such as the Central American ones have more necessities because they serve large migrant communities but they don’t necessarily have the largest facilities or access to large spaces to hold activities, and that is a budget matter as much as of each country’s vision. Those gaps, she added, “are what generate the need to support each other in order to take common action.”

Before the current Constitution took effect in her country, added Machuca, tending to community issues were not considered part of the Ecuador consulates’ tasks. “There were some elements that of course were part of the consular services, but not on the level of guaranteeing and protecting rights, which is currently part of what the Ecuadorean external service does, and more so in the case of big consulates such as New York’s.”

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